DCRA employs 34 residential inspectors who perform more than 40,000 inspection a year for code violations ranging from overgrown weeds to fire and life safety issues.
Some of the fired inspectors had been working for DCRA for more than 20 years. This is the first time the city has required them to become certified.
Argo says it's all part of her efforts to ramp up the oversight of landlords in the District.
"It's the first step to professionalize and take this inspection corps in a different direction."
As to whether or not it's fair to change a person's job qualifications after so many years, Argo is not apologetic.
"We did raise the bar. We gave the inspectors over 40 hours of training, we paid for the tests, and they knew about this and they were able to do most of this during work hours. So we gave them every opportunity to come up to the bar we raised."
Some of the inspectors failed the certification test, and "some did not take the test," according to Argo.
Eleven inspectors did pass the certification exam and five others are recent hires who still have time to complete the process.
Argo says she will begin hiring new inspectors, and in the meantime, inspectors from other agencies will help with the workload.
The 18 terminated inspectors have been placed on administrative leave pending a 15-day appeal period. They are all represented by the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2725.
Eric Bunn, president of the AFGE Local 2725, tells WTOP the inspectors weren't notified of the new certification requirement until March of this year.
"The agency refused to discuss this with us," Bunn says. "We asked that these inspectors be grandfathered in."
Bunn says the union will appeal the termination notices.
"We'll do whatever we have to do to stop the injustice to these employees," Bunn says. "If we have to file an unfair labor practice complaint or go to court, we'll do what we have to."